For the first time since 2019, Saugus High School football took the field without the 'Thin Blue Line' flag on Friday night. The pro-police flag was banned from campus because it is "divisive."
Saugus, located in Santa Clarita, Calif., suffered a mass shooting in November of 2019. A student entered the school with a gun and shot five of his schoolmates, killing two, before killing himself.
In response to the incident, law enforcement played a big role. Three off-duty officers, out of uniform, were dropping off their children at school and heard gunfire. Rather than calling for assistance or hesitating, they ran into the school knowing that there was an active shooter and helped to secure the scene— saving lives.
From that point forward, to show support for the law enforcement who put the safety of the students before themselves, the football team ran out onto the field with the 'Thin Blue Line' flag prior to each and every game. Until last week, when the school shut it down.
The flag was created in support of law enforcement.
However, some argue that the flag is a symbol of white supremacy and compare it to the Confederate flag. Others believe that it is disrespectful to the true American flag.
"For many in the black community the flag has been, and continues to be a tool utilized by those determined to stoke division, injustice, and exclusion," said the local chapter of the NAACP in a statement.
It also said that the 'Thin Blue Line' flag was popularized after the Black Lives Matter movement was established:
"The thin blue line flag was popularized by Andrew Jacob, a white affluent college student, who found distasteful. It has been embraced by hate groups across the country."
The 'Thin Blue Line' flag sparked controversy within Saugus' school district.
"While many embrace the symbol as simply a celebration of law enforcement, others have shared their feeling that the symbol has sometimes been co-opted by intolerant individuals with an agenda to divide and exclude," said William S. Hart Union High School District Superintendent Mike Kuhlman in a statement. "I’ve personally spoken with some individuals who shared their feeling that the symbol makes them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome."
After conversations with Kuhlman and the Saugus principal, head football coach Jason Bornn ultimately decided to stop displaying the flag.
"Given that some individuals have expressed concern that they interpret the Thin Blue Line flag to be divisive, it occurred to (the coach) that it’s possible that some players on the team might not be entirely enthusiastic about a symbol that is being used to represent the entire team," Kuhlman said. "In deference to his commitment to inclusivity, kindness and respect (just loving people), and because the team never voted as a unit to carry this banner, Coach decided to discontinue this practice."
The flag is no longer allowed on the field and Saugus did not wave it during its team runout for the first time in three+ years on Friday.
Although the 'Thin Blue Line' flag was not on the field at Saugus High School, it was in the stands.
In direct response to the ban, many fans wore and displayed the flag in the crowd. It was very prominent.
Meanwhile, a few counter-protestors stood outside the stadium.
One woman, wearing a ski mask, held a sign that read "GO HOME NAZIS."
The decision was made without the administrators discussing it with the players and it was made prior to the team's seventh game of the year. Saugus will play next on Friday, Oct. 14.